I blogged about this a few weeks back—the supposed three-way race for Chief Justice. Now, it has come to pass. The race really was a rout. The front-runner had no chance—none at all because Gloria Arroyo is starting to show her true colors: Marcosian.
I have also said this before, she is worse than Marcos and this shows it.
This might get me into a lot of trouble because: 1. I am a lawyer with cases pending before the Supreme Court and I am blogging about Gloria Arroyo’s choice for Chief Justice of the Philippines; 2. I am subject to the discipline of the Supreme Court; and 3. I have friends on Justice Panganiban’s chambers, who might feel bad about my blogging about their boss in this way.
Because lawyering is the only way I know how to put butter on my bread, I will say this: this is not about Justice Panganiban, this is about Gloria Arroyo and the damage she has inflicted on the court and the judicial system because of her senseless and totally trapo (shorthand for “traditional politician” but also very aptly vernacular for “dirty rag”, good only for throwing away) “revolving door” policy. But because lawyering is also the only way I know how to serve, I will say this: this is also about the Court and the way it’s independence will be determined in the future.
I write about this not because I do not like Justice Panganiban (I have no basis to “not like him” as I do not know him that well personally; I have some of his books as apparently I am on his mailing list) or because I do not like Gloria Arroyo but because I am a member of the Bar, an officer of the Court, and a Filipino. And I am offended, deeply offended, that Gloria Arroyo would insult everyone by foisting this appointment on us.
I stated before that I am not a rabid fan of Mr. Justice Puno but I do admire his judicial philosophy. We are, if I may be so bold to claim, kindred spirits in espousing greater protection for civil rights and human freedoms. Often, his pen--wielded mightily and consistently--and wit-- manifesting itself very often acerbically--have cut through layers of government-sponsored balderdash to expose and lay bare to the people what is most important to them: the truth. I often do not agree with his decisions but I have yet to find occasion to disrespect him. Of the three who were in the “race”, he was, in my opinion, the best qualified—coincidentally also, the most senior.
What offends me about Gloria Arroyo’s appointment of Justice Panganiban as Chief Justice of the Philippines is that she cheapens the Judiciary by making the highest post open to the simple expediency of accommodation. What offends me about Gloria Arroyo’s appointment of Justice Panganiban as Chief Justice of the Philippines is that she would choose not the best qualified and also the most senior but that she would choose based on a policy of appeasement. What offends me about this appointment is not that Justice Panganiban was chosen over Justice Puno but that Gloria Arroyo thinks that the rule of law should be made subject to a simplistic and “simpletonic” (my own word; don’t bother looking it up) policy of “giving everyone a chance.”
The direction of the Supreme Court and the Judicial Branch should be determined by a vision, not by political accommodation and expediency. It should be charted by someone who has a clear grasp of where the Court should go and how it should get there; it should be led by one who has a firm and long view of how law may help change and shape society.
It should not be charted by one who is, effective from the date of his appointment, a lame duck. Regardless of his qualifications and track record, this, unfortunately, is the situation that Gloria Arroyo has placed Justice Panganiban in. By not putting a premium on seniority as well as vision but instead stressing accommodation and by highlighting that Justice Puno would still have another chance to be Chief Justice when Justice Panganiban retires in 2006, Gloria Arroyo has put a lame duck in the Supreme Court. Starting today, everyone knows the clock is ticking and that Justice Panganiban is a seat warmer for a year. This is an insult Justice Panganiban does not deserve, this is an insult the Court does not deserve, this is another offense by Gloria Arroyo against the Filipino people for which she should not be forgiven.
I have been a lawyer for 15 years and a law professor for almost 10 and I love the law and the rule of law. Thus, Gloria Arroyo’s insult, I take personally. She is singlehandedly destroying all the democratic institutions that generations of martyrs like Ka Pepe Diokno, Lorenzo Tanada, Lean Alejandro had shed blood and given their lives for. There are no two ways about it: she must go.
I end this blog entry with my Congratulations to Mr. Justice, now Chief Justice, Panganiban. May his one year as Chief Justice be fruitful and may he strive mightily, with God’s help, to do what is right, not only what is popular or what is expected of him by Gloria Arroyo. May he, in his one year as Chief Justice, rise above the unfair label that Gloria Arroyo has pinned on him and prove me—and all the others who believe Justice Puno should have gotten the appointment—wrong. I would be the happiest Filipino in one year’s time should this happen.
In the meantime, sic Gloria transit mundi; this too, will pass. So will Gloria Arroyo.